High­way­man’s charge ‘for en­ter­tain­ing’

Bea­cons­field his­to­rian Don­ald Stan­ley takes a look at the area’s links with crime and the law – and dis­cov­ers that it has strong con­nec­tions with both sides of that equa­tion

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLE AND LACES -

ONE OF Bea­cons­field’s old­est build­ings was as­so­ci­ated in the 1600s with a fa­mous high­way­man and, 200 years later, with two long-serv­ing and highly re­spected law firms.

Sit­u­ated astride the road from London to Ox­ford, Bea­cons­field was a coach­ing stop which at­tracted not only trav­ellers but high­way­men who plied their trade in such places as Cut Throat Wood on the wooded hill be­tween Holt­spur and Wooburn Moor.

The white bow-fronted build­ing in London End, then the Crown Inn, was re­put­edly a haunt of high­way­man Claude Du­val, a man noted for his gal­lantry and cour­tesy.

Born in Nor­mandy in 1643 he was brought to Eng­land by one of the ex­iled aris­toc­racy who re­turned upon the restora­tion of Charles ll.

By 1666, he had be­come a high­way­man with a rep­u­ta­tion for avoid­ing vi­o­lence.

One story con­cern­ing his be­hav­iour is that once a lady in a car­riage he had stopped started to play a recorder-like in­stru­ment to dis­guise her fear.

Du­val is re­ported to have pro­duced his own fla­geo­let (a wood­wind mu­si­cal in­stru­ment) and, hav­ing danced with the lady, es­corted her back to her coach where he re­lieved her hus­band of £400 – a huge sum in those days – as pay­ment for the `en­ter­tain­ment’.

Even­tu­ally Du­val was caught and sentenced to death de­spite the ef­forts of `ladies of qual­ity’, sev­eral of whom, wear­ing masks, at­tended his hang­ing at Tyburn in 1670.

The Crown Inn was later di­vided into two res­i­dences; the larger named Burke House, the smaller Burke Lodge.

The larger was lived in by one of the ladies of the pro­lific Chars­ley fam­ily.

Amongst those for whom she pro­vided a home, one went on to join the fam­ily law firm which for much of the 1800s prac­tised from The Elms op­po­site.

Burke Lodge be­came the res­i­dence of James Gib­son who joined the Chars­leys as a part­ner.

In due course he set up a prac­tice of his own un­der his last two names – Baily Gib­son – next to The Elms un­til his son moved it to the New Town.

James Gib­son’s wife, Ethel Rigby, was a for­mi­da­ble lady in her own right.

Hav­ing cy­cled across much of east­ern Europe `as it was the eas­i­est way to get around’, and scored a cen­tury at Trent Bridge as one of a women’s team against an all male team, she set­tled for be­ing a coun­try solic­i­tor’s wife con­fin­ing her­self to be­ing a ten­nis coach to the As­tors at Clive­den with her son, later a Ten­nis Blue and suc­ces­sor to his fa­ther’s prac­tice, as ball boy. OH YAY, the clocks have gone back, an ex­tra hour of sleep.

That phrase has never been ut­tered by a par­ent of a young child – un­less said child has been fit­ted with an anti-early wak­ing de­vice from birth. Quite un­likely!

The no­tion that the afore­men­tioned par­ent can ef­fec­tively re­tire and col­lapse into bed an hour ear­lier at this time of year, is also a mis­con­cep­tion made by many.

There are chores still to be done, and let’s face it, we have all sat there mildly ex­cited like a school­child that although it’s 11pm, it’s re­ally only 10pm, mean­ing stay­ing up longer is a vi­able op­tion, whilst ig­nor­ing the fact com­pletely that the mini hu­man early morn­ing alarm sys­tem is yet to be put through mil­i­tary style su­per nanny sleep train­ing.

Of course, this com­plete flaw in the art of mas­ter­ing the parenting sleep combo isn’t re­alised un­til the morn­ing of the first child in­clu­sive time change.

So it’s bleary-eyed movie watch­ing or puz­zle com­plet­ing in the lounge down­stairs in or­der not to wake mum/dad (delete as ap­pro­pri­ate as to who has been suc­cess­ful on claim­ing this week­end’s lie-in).

Even if they are old enough to ad­here to the tod­dler tar­geted colour-chang­ing morn­ing ver­sus night-time clock, they can be heard be­ing de­lib­er­ately rest­less, or as in our house­hold, a lit­tle face will ap­pear by the bed­side, too cute and fresh faced to turn away.

Sssssh! Just don’t wake up the other chil­dren!

The au­tumn and win­ter cross over is there­fore a pa­rade of par­ents sport­ing the washed-out tired look, usu­ally re­served for brand new par­ents un­aware of the con­tin­ual sleep de­pri­va­tion style tor­ture that awaits.

Gone are the days where this clock change meant an ex­tra hour of drink­ing, danc­ing, so­cial­is­ing, hav­ing fun and un­in­ter­rupted catch up sleep! The non-child ap­proach to life at this time has its ap­peal.

So, with the win­ter time change here, it is now an of­fi­cial point to note that we can now hi­ber­nate with the log fires, hot choco­late and com­fort food.

Who needs an ex­tra hour of morn­ing light in any case?

Change it back al­ready!

A paint­ing by Wil­liam Pow­ell Frith is re­puted to show Claude Du­val danc­ing with the lady whose stage­coach he had held up near Bea­cons­field. Gal­lant or not, Du­val was hanged at Tyburn Hill after a four-year ca­reer as a high­way­man. Be­low, The Crown Inn (lat­terly Burke House) a fre­quent haunt of Claude Du­val

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